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Does a year abroad really help your career?

Many students wonder how the year abroad actually helps your career. Georgie tells us how her year abroad studying at the University of Bordeaux changed her career path.

By Georgie Rea, Bristol graduate class of 2018

The Croft Magazine // Many students wonder how the year abroad actually helps your career. Georgie tells us how her year abroad studying at the University of Bordeaux changed her career path.

Georgie graduated from the University of Bristol in 2018 with an LLB in Law and French. She is currently a trainee at the European Court of Justice

Week 4 into your year abroad and you’re supposed to be having the time of your life. But the hangover is hitting, classes have started, and it turns out that once the welcome parties end, real life returns.

It’s not the home sickness that’s getting to you, it’s the disappointment you feel in yourself for feeling homesick. You’re an MFL student, adventure and travel is in your blood, so why do you feel so out of sorts?

This is a turning point faced by all year abroad students. The adrenaline that got you through the first weeks has faded and you wonder how this year which stretches out before you like a mirage could possibly help your career, let alone your wellbeing.

Whilst at the University of Bordeaux, the minimal contact hours came as a shock to my system, and with a limited budget and only so much sight-seeing and drinking one Erasmus student can do, I took some initiative and joined several societies. Between drama and photography, I became busy and my everyday French improved more during these activities than in my law lectures.

Georgie studied in France for a year - check out more advice on doing a Year Abroad in France | Unsplash/ Anthony Choren

Fast forward 3 years. I’m about to be called to the bar of England and Wales after an intense year of training to be a barrister. My French has long since forsaken me and my book shelves of Baudelaire and Zola have been replaced with Civil Procedure and Blackstone’s criminal practice. The Brexit fiasco has meant that my dream to practice EU law has been put on hold, as I branch out into more general areas of public law.

... and then a friend messaged me. “They’re looking for a trainee in the cabinet of the UK’s judge at the European court of justice. I don’t know many other people with a joint honours Law and French degree.”

The job starts in 3 weeks. Calling it the job of a lifetime doesn’t remotely cut it. It’s bound to be seriously competitive and I don’t think I’ve got a hope in hell. I start my cover letter, with the usual spiel about my academics and work experience and I imagine the recipient placing it onto a pile of pages outlining the lives of equally competent lawyer linguists.

The European Court of Justice is in Luxembourg which is similar to Strasbourg in terms of its cultural and historical significance as the heart of European jurisprudence. So, I added this paragraph to my cover letter.

“During my year abroad, I won a photography competition for my photograph of Strasburg Cathedral, with both French and German architecture in the streets leading up to it, entitled “the Heart of Europe”. In an interview about the photograph, I stressed how important it is for young people, and particularly young lawyers, to keep in touch with European news and politics.”

Turns out I was bang on the money. I’ve now been working at the Court for 5 months and the collegiate atmosphere among the trainees from across Europe has defined my experience here.

Unsplash / Wesley Tingey

My year abroad taught me more than just French law and language. I made friends from far flung cities in Eastern Europe, watched films about migrant communities in southern France, took bla bla cars to places I didn't know existed. No matter how good my legal analysis and ability to read French judgments, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to take this job, let alone be accepted onto the placement, without the experiences I achieved on my Year abroad. Moreover, it’s the experiences you don’t expect to have during that year which could end up leading you to where you want to go.

Featured Image credit: Unsplash / Helloquence

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